The benefits of mindfulness - reducing stress and increasing happiness - have been well-documented and it's now a practice that many can't do without. But can it help us when we're thrown into one of the most stressful situations - going on holiday?
It's the activity we look forward to and dread in equal measure. Planning, packing and passport problems - travelling is rife with stressful obstacles, meaning your much-earned time off could leave you more frazzled than when you left.
Tiddy Rowan is a mindfulness practitioner for over 30 years and author of bestselling books including the Little Book Of Mindfulness and Colour Yourself Calm. Her latest book, The Little Book Of Mindful Travel, shows how adopting a mindful approach to travel can help us embrace and enjoy all aspects of the journey. From practical packing tips to advice on how to be 'in the moment', Rowan's book can help make your holiday that little bit easier. Read on for 5 handy hints on how to make the most of your trip...
How to pack
Whilst choosing holiday outfits can be fun, you should be mindful of how much and what type of luggage you're bringing. Rowan suggests a backpack as the best means to carry your things, especially if your travelling involves the outdoors. Wheelie suitcases are fine for airports, but are problematic on cobbled streets and uneven terrains.
Think ahead of your trip and visualise what you will want to wear, and don't be afraid of trying on outfits before packing to ensure they're necessary pieces that you'll enjoy wearing. Choose light cotton/linen for day outfits, and merino/cashmere for when there's a chill. And never underestimate the importance of comfortable footwear!
Where to go
Where before we used to pop to the local travel agent and have everything planned for us, nowadays we prefer to do it all ourselves. With all the offers on hotels, flights and excursions, we can plan our trips down to the letter. This amount of choice is both a blessing AND a curse, often rendering us stressed-out messes before we've even chosen our destination. Rowan says we should "savour the preparation - there is much pleasure to be had in the anticipation of the journey".
And whilst there's comfort in familiarity, avoid heading back to same destinations time and time again. "At least once a year go somewhere you have never travelled to before," Rowan writes, "either abroad or in your home country."
How to stay healthy
Despite your best efforts, an unexpected ailment can play a huge role in your stress levels. In particular, nasty bouts of travellers tummy can ruin an otherwise a fantastic trip. Do your digestive system a favour and avoid packaged, processed foods, alchohol and fizzy drinks that are all available in abudance at shops, fast food outlets and in-flight. Where possible, pick fresh foods, high protein snacks and drink water.
Being in the moment
One of the main principles of 'mindfulness' is basking in the present moment. This can be adopted in all aspects of travel, even when taking photos. Be selective when taking photos rather than falling into the habit of experiencing everything through a lens - it's no substitute for the experiencing the real thing.
The same can be said of guidebooks - although incredibly useful, relying too much on your guidebook can mean missing out on your own discoveries.
A journey offers a good opportunity to clear the mind - as well as physical packing, try 'mental' packing, filling your case only with essential information and immediate goals, and leave your excess emotional baggage at home.
Being aware of WHY you're travelling can help you make the most of your trip. Whether you're travelling to see the world, make new friends or taking time out, being mindful of your motivation allows for greater exploration of ourselves while we're in new environments. Keeping a journal can help with this, as well as providing you with a memento to remember your travels long after you've returned home.
The Little Book Of Mindful Travel by Tiddy Rowan, £5.99, is out February 11th.
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